By Liz Mosher ’10, CES Peer Advisor

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Phil Gardner, an expert on the job market for college students, give an informative lecture about the current economic realities greeting us young adults after college and how to present ourselves in the market.

Anxious to be as prepared as possible for my transition from college to career, I furiously scribbled down facts about the job market and economy throughout his presentation until 1) my caffeine fuel died and 2) I realized that this factual knowledge wasn’t what was going to give me the edge I needed. Instead I found myself particularly drawn in by his more philosophical advice…dwelling on the surprising fact that one-third of our Gen Y population looks for opportunities in non-profits and another one-third in sustainability.

Why? What does this have to do with anything?

Then Dr. Gardner quoted National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones to offer another perspective on viewing the world; it was at this point that it all came together for me. As stated by Jones, Dr. Gardner asked us to consider shifting from “being the best in the world” to “being the best for the world” thus establishing a resilient persona motivated by faith instead of fear.

After being conditioned to be competitive in all of my endeavors throughout my scholastic life, I realized that I have been spending my energy on competing—fearful of losing ground—instead of using that passion, dedication, and energy on other things. Even though we “face-off” when applying for schools, jobs, and winning nationals in sports tournaments, it does not mean that we need to be in a state of constant competition with people. I discovered that I’d rather compete to be the best for the world, not in the world.

Now, as I reconsider my perspectives and move forward on my journey to the so-called “real world” (as if we’re not already in it) I find that I am more willing to embrace change and think outside the box. In order to be the best for the world, I get to figure out a way to best capitalize on my skills and dedicate myself to something that excites me…not something somebody expects of me. The pressure is off. Now I can focus on my mission to figure out just how I fit in, unclouded by expectation and drive for approval.

To rephrase, I’ve undergone a paradigm shift in which striving to be the best for the world will generate a different kind of approval. I can see the people in my life as opportunities to learn, admiring them instead of seeing them as the competition.

Evidently Dr. Gardner triggered something inside of me with this concept; in fact, by the end of the talk I was already feeling amazingly refreshed and relaxed about the future…it was as if all this pressure to be a certain person in a certain job was lifted. I finally got the affirmation I needed — we absolutely have the right to explore and find our fit…and Dr. Gardner just happened to provide me with that unspoken permission.

© 2009 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound